Business Proverbs

Biblical Dismissal
by Steve Marr

Firing an employee is one of the more gut-wrenching, painful, and distasteful management tasks. However, by embracing a biblical model for managing employee performance, you can reduce the number of terminations and ensure that every dismissal is necessary.

When an employee's performance is sub-par, first look at your leadership before you resort to employee discipline. Ask yourself two key questions:

  • Are the job expectations clear?
  • Have I provided the necessary training, instruction, and support?
If the answer to either question is no, start by apologizing to your employee for not providing clear expectations or providing the needed training, and then solve the underlying problem. Only after you have properly trained your employees and established clear expectations can you reasonably hold them accountable for their performance. If employees still fail to perform work as instructed, or refuse to conform to company policies, or are dishonest, take immediate steps to terminate their employment.

Once you have established clear expectations and have provided the necessary training, give regular feedback to your staff, praising their positive accomplishments and identifying opportunities for improvement. When improvement is noted, comment favorably and move on. When serious offenses occur or smaller problems are repeated, stronger action will be required. Start by talking to the employee privately, outlining the problem and clearly identifying the necessary changes. Make a note to yourself, identifying the issue and what was said, and place it in a file. If the problem persists, give the employee a written warning, again explaining the problem and the changes that must occur. Jesus said, "If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him" (Luke 17:3).

However, sometimes, employees will apologize repeatedly but fail to change their behavior. King Solomon wrote, "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion" (Proverbs 28:13). The two key words in this passage are confesses and forsakes. Confessing without forsaking wrong behavior is worthless. Scripture clearly states, "If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26). True repentance is a two-step process: confession and change of behavior (forsaking). When discussing problems with your employees, ask them to acknowledge what they did wrong (confession) and state clearly what corrective action they will take (change). Some employees will never be willing to change. According to a proverb quoted by the apostle Peter, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire" (2 Peter 2:22).

Dishonesty, stealing. or lying is grounds for immediate discharge. Scripture is clear, "You shall not bear a false report" (Exodus 23:1), and "You shall not steal" (Deuteronomy 5:19). Corruption in any form is not acceptable. If allowed, it will become a cancer that eats away at your organization.

Firing employees is always difficult, but the lessons they learn through it may help them become more successful in the long run. "A worker's appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on" (Proverbs 16:26).

One final point: We have considered a biblical basis for terminating someone's employment. You should also be certain to understand and comply with the employment laws in your state.


Steve Marr is a business/ministry consultant and author of the book Business Proverbs. His daily radio feature, "Business Proverbs" is heard on 1,000 radio stations. He is the former CEO of the fourth largest import-export firm in the United States. Website: www.businessproverbs.org

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